April 2012 CEO Report
Linaro’s work affects many segments other than mobile – cars, TV, cameras, kiosks, printers, consumer and enterprise routers, servers – the market for Linux on ARM extends to billions of devices. The ARM architecture and business model encourages SoC vendors to create customized and value-added products for different market segments. While this enables optimized hardware for a particular application, the software platforms required to drive them are becoming increasingly complex. Standardization on core Linux software is becoming increasingly critical to avoid excessive engineering development and maintenance costs, and to avoid lengthy testing, validation and bug fixing cycles, which ultimately lead to product delays. The quality of Linaro’s engineering team and its focus on consolidating and developing Linux core software on ARM will be of strategic importance for ARM SoC vendors for years to come.
Different market segments have different needs. The mobile market is characterized by short product cycles and a dependence on the latest, most powerful devices, coupled with a demand for extraordinary battery life. Linaro is making a real difference by helping distributions such as Android, and phone developers rely on a well implemented and well tested kernel and operating system core that runs across multiple SoCs, with a concerted effort into improving performance and power management. As the market for ARM devices expands rapidly, driven by new SoC products including the A15, big.LITTLE and next generation ARM v8 64 bit devices, the demands on Linux for ARM are also expanding. Linaro is working with existing and prospective members to help share the cost of the engineering required to enable ARM processors to not only compete but to excel in these markets.
There is synergy between these new market areas and mobile devices. 10 years ago the thought of using server based SMP Linux for mobile phones would have been met with extreme skepticism, yet today that is exactly the norm, as many of the mechanisms for running multi-processor Linux server software are now in your multi-core SoC-based mobile phone. Take UEFI as another example: a year ago there was little interest in UEFI as a mobile phone boot mechanism, except as a future roadmap item for ARM servers. Then an interesting thing happened. UEFI is the standard secure boot mechanism for Windows 8. Secure boot is becoming more important for all mobile devices as they store more and more personal information, and start to be widely used for banking and financial transactions. Today most mobile devices use custom bootloaders. However, few products are sold on the basis of differentiated boot implementations. It makes a great deal of sense for members to agree to work on a single implementation of secure boot and UEFI together. This is a good example of the value of Linaro for members. Without Linaro each SoC vendor must do this work themselves — it is core and necessary — and yet non-differentiating. If the costs of developing and maintaining UEFI are shared in Linaro then the members will benefit. As you will see below Linaro has already started working on UEFI on the ARM Versatile Express and we will be bringing proposals to the TSC to widen this activity to support all of our members products and to provide Linaro support for UEFI moving forward.
I look forward to seeing you all at Linaro Connect later this month.